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Objects: Thumb Piano

We’re collectors: stamps, postcards, matchbooks, magnets, the myriad small things that accumulate while traveling. Our far-flung friends often send us photos of treasures they’ve come across, with descriptions of why they caught their eye. Here is one of those found objects.

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This object and I were already well acquainted before I ever saw it. The mbira (or kalimba) is a plucked idiophone which we were taught about in music class at school. I grew attached to the small, tinkling and somewhat eerie sounding instrument that you could hold and play in your hands. I found one online and told myself that I’d buy an authentic one if I ever went to Africa. About 3 years later I’d finally reached the volunteer house in Iringa, Southern Tanzania after more than 20 hours travelling. Despite my exhaustion, my malaria tablets refused to let me sleep, instead keeping me awake and frozen with fear at the haunting sound of a tinkling mbira being played by a man standing just outside the window.

 

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Needless to say my trippy anti-malarial hallucinations were less scary after that. After trying to decide for weeks what to get my boyfriend as a present, I stumbled across (tripped over) a basket of mbiras on my way out of a shop and took great pleasure in singing creepy songs to my fellow volunteers. If you look closely you can see that the small yellow metal parts near the top are actually pictures of Pikachu, which makes this object just that bit weirder and more interesting.

—Marie-Claire Lambert

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Spring Writing Contest Winners!

We would like to congratulate Spring Writing Contest winner, Andrew Bratcher of Washington, D.C. Drew won with his story, “Istanbul Letter,” chosen by Outside Magazine Executive Editor Sam Moulton. The story will run in Issue 13 of Nowhere this fall. Congrats to the top 10 finalists as well:
  • “End of the Line,” by Anneliese Schultz
  • “Dead Tourist Bar,” Elizabeth Kellar
  • “El Metro,” by Eva Xiao
  • “Frontiers,” by Esther Yi
  • “Lost in America,” by Daniel Iacob
  • “Pascuales,” by Paul Dresman
  • “Thanksgiving,” by Kengo Tsutsumi
  • “The Drifting Fog,” by Ben Nickol
  • “The Meteorite Shower,” by Annie Dawid
  • “There is No There,” by Caroline Curvan
Look for the Top 10 to be published this fall in Nowhere. Until then, enjoy the first lines of Drew’s story:
You would like the meat. The hills would kill your knees. Well-hung, the bronze statue in the roundabout looks a lot like our old bull. Would you believe they fish the bridges here? Water everywhere: Marmara, Bosporus, Black Sea. I was spooked, I admit, by a cast on the Galata. The line snapped lariat-like out over the throng. Of course I thought of the time I nicked you in the scalp. I did, I wondered whether my turn had come.
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Expats: Crime and Punishment

Photo by Kasya Shahovskaya.

“There is nothing more in Russia,” says gay refugee Pavel, part of a growing contingent of LGBT asylum-seekers that spiked after the State Duma unanimously passed an anti-gay bill in June of 2013, which bans the act of distributing information among minors that encourages “nontraditional sexual attitudes.” Its signing brought on a wave of hate crimes targeted against LGBT individuals and activists, and with it, a wave of refugees fleeing persecution from the country.  In a 2014 survey on protection of LGBT citizens, Russia ranked last. Pavel, who uses an alias to protect his identity, tells others to forget Russia, “like you would forget a nightmare.” Continue Reading…

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The Flaneur: Moto Journal Day 2 — Kashmir

The second in a seven-part series. Read with Part 1 here.

To enter the Kashmir Valley from the south you must pass through the Jawarhal Tunnel, a rugged 1.77-mile hole between Banih?l and Qazigund that looks carved out by hammers and picks.

The one-lane tunnel is damp and feebly lit and a little frightening, especially on a motorcycle with bats flying overhead and vehicles with one headlight honking past in the bleary darkness, but these hazards make the journey all the more refreshing when the Kashmir Valley washes over you on the other side, with its cool air, valleys full of gleaming rice paddies and snow-capped mountains. Continue Reading…

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The Nostalgic Traveler: The Dresser

Photo by Susan Harlan.

I went to High Point, North Carolina to see the dresser. I had heard it was on the side of the road: a marvel for road-trippers. Visitors describe it on travel sites as fun, hilarious, and whimsical. It is so random, they say. But really, it is a domestic monster. Continue Reading…

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En Route: Buddha’s Bodhi Tree by Foot

Photo by Zipporah Lomax.

A man went and sat underneath a tree, one that looked just as gnarled and ancient, as the Buddha’s Bodhi tree. The legendary tree itself was barred off from the countless pilgrims that go there everyday, so he chose one nearby.

About twenty minutes in, red ants swarmed his legs, and he got up and went to the Niranjana, a river nearby. He imagined the Buddha had walked down that very riverbank many times, and thought he should as well. Like most rivers in India, the water flowed brown, smooth as a sheet below rolling green hills on the opposite side. Continue Reading…

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Expats: Trip to Trinidad

Photo by Arthur Russell Allen.

There are places we travel to that change us forever, but none quite like the town of Trinidad, Colorado; population: 9,096. About an hour and a half south of Denver and just a few miles shy of the New Mexican border, Trinidad came to be known as the “Sex Change Capital of The World” when Dr. Stanley Biber began performing genital procedures there in 1969. His practice was taken over in 2003 by Dr. Marci Bowers, the first transgender woman to perform the surgery. “Transitioning is like walking on lily pads,” she says, “You have to be careful with each step, or you’re going to sink.” Continue Reading…

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The Flaneur: Moto Journal Day 1 — Settling into the Ride

The first in a seven-part series.

After three days of running around Dharamshala I’ve finally got all my gear. All together it weighs about 20 kilos: clothes, camera equipment, notebooks, first aid, hash, spark plugs, tools, tire tubes, clutch cables and other spare parts for the inevitable breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. I’ve fit it all into two old rucksacks and strapped them into the bars on either side of the wheel. This weight makes the bike drive wobbly as it accelerates, but once it gains speed things even out.

It took awhile to get the balance just right, but now things are set. The luggage is finally strapped to the 350cc Royal Enfield.

I go into the toilet to put on my riding gear: padded trousers, an armored jacket with burn holes in the sleeves, steel-toed boots, Gortex gloves, a keffiyeh to tie around my face for dust. Then I walk up the hill and lean on my bike waiting for M-. Continue Reading…

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Nowhereland: The Zen of Sir Alfred

For eighteen years, Mehran Katrimi Nasseri, who called himself Sir Alfred Mehran, occupied his corner of Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport with a Zen-like resignation to the quiet trappings of routine. It’s been said that if he wasn’t reading from books on politics, he could be seen sitting, staring, on his red bench between a mound of cargo boxes, his mustache impeccably trimmed and his gaze steadied beneath a heavy brow, watching travelers rush to and from their final destinations. Continue Reading…

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